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Testing Deterrence and Incapacitation as Crime Control Mechanisms: A Refinement of the Hypothesis

NCJ Number
Date Published
151 pages
Using aggregate official statistics from the 102 counties in Illinois, this study assessed the extent to which risk of apprehension and punishment deterred crime.
The study improved upon past assessments of the effect of deterrence on crime by using more comprehensive measures of the risk of subsequent processing steps across individual criminal justice system components, by including juvenile justice system activities and pooled cross-sectional and time series data. Combining data from the 102 counties over a 10-year period resulted in a large number of observations and allowed for a more comprehensive model and numerous control variables. The study hypothesized higher risk of arrest, conviction, and incarceration would result in lower crime rates. Findings showed risk of arrest appeared to have little effect on crime rates, whereas risk of incarceration relative to offenses did. When the risk of incarceration was measured with different variables, however, the deterrent effect diminished. Similarly, risk of conviction, found to be inversely related to crime in prior assessments, had little effect across Illinois counties. Implications of the study findings for crime control policies and future research are discussed. 114 references, 19 tables, and 15 figures

Date Published: January 1, 1997